Friday, September 15, 2006

Oriana Fallaci has left the building..but her words remain

Oriana Fallaci has died at age 77 of cancer in her home city of Florence Italy. She'd been living in Manhattan for several decades, but returned to Florence to spend her last days there.

Small, beautiful, brilliant and incredibly tough, Oriana packed at least three lifetimes into those 77 years.

Fallaci was an Italian resistance fighter who became a war correspondent in the 1950s and 1960s, covering the Vietnam War and conflicts in the Middle East and Latin America. She was shot three times and beaten by Mexican police while covering the student riots in Mexico City in 1968.

Her one-on-one interviews with politicians, generals and religious leaders, conducted, as she said "with a thousand feelings of rage" made her famous and were translated and published all over the world, and she was noted for her blunt and soemtimes acerbic interview style. Nothing and nobody intimidated her. Unlike many of today's journalists, she was much more interested in truth than in entertainment..with the result that her interviews were frequently entertaining.

Among her subjects were a virtual who's who of politics and the arts in the 1960's and `70's - Nguyen Cao Ky, Yasir Arafat, the Shah of Iran, Henry Kissinger, Walter Cronkite, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Nguyen Van Thieu, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Willy Brandt, the Aytollah Khomeini, and Mu'ammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi.

She was living a fairly quiet life in Manhattan and doing occasional interviews when the 9/11 attacks hit. As with many others that event changed her profoundly..and brought her out of semi-retirement.

She wrote `The Rage and The Pride' at high speed in the autumn of 2001, which sold sold more than one million copies in Italy alone and was one of the first books to raise alarm at the Islamization of Europe and radical Islam's alliance with the Left. The book brought her fatwas, death threats and widespread noteriety...and a new generation of fans.

Typical of her outspoken attacks on Islam was an article she wrote for the Corriere della Sera newspaper in July last year, where she described Islam both as "an enemy in the house" of the West and "incompatible with democracy."

"We are at war: do you accept that, yes or no?" she wrote, adding that the integration of Muslims into western society was a "nightmare."

Her subsequent book, `The Strength of Reason', argued that Europe was being attacked by an Islamic invasion from without and rampant spiritual decay from within and that the Catholic Church was not providing an adequate response to the religion. Last year she was granted an audience with Pope Benedict XVI at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo after his essay 'If Europe Hates Itself' attracted her attention. Fallaci always descibed herself as `an atheist Christian'.

She went out they way she lived..fighting what she perceived as injustice and totalitarian tyranny to the last.

R.I.P., Orianna. You'll be missed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Should I call you FF, Robert, or Zilla? Ha!

I was "into" Oriana a long time before 9/11 and The Rage and The Pride. "Letter to a Child Never Born" is one of her less well known works and shattering. "A Man" is a book any of us would wish to be written by someone who loved us. Read both when/if you have the time.

Did you know she had a private 30 minute audience with Benedict just a few months before she died? It was just the two of them; the condition being that neither would speak of the contents to another. Can we imagine the honesty in that encounter? God bless her athiest soul. She believed more in some ways than the most devout amongst us.